Righting Some of the Wrongs from the Past: East Marshall Street Well Project
Nov. 29, 2023
In 1994, human remains from more than fifty individuals were uncovered from a well during construction of a new VCU medical building. The bodies were stolen by medical school staff between 1848 and 1860, likely through graverobbing Black cemeteries, used for anatomical dissection, and then discarded. In 2013, VCU created the East Marshall Street Well Project to facilitate a process with the community that ensures the remains receive appropriate study, memorialization and reburial.
Two VCU postdoctoral fellows are working to implement the full recommendations of the Family Representative Council, a group representing the descendant community of the ancestors recovered from the East Marshall Street well.
Maggie Unverzagt Goddard, Ph.D. and Daniel Sunshine, Ph.D. have each received the Postdoctoral Independent Research Award (PIRA), which will assist them in furthering their individual projects.
Goddard has been working on an exhibition at VCU libraries which will document the silenced history of medical racism and its ongoing impact on health inequities today. She says, “This exhibit will contextualize the project while also showing recent developments with primary documents, textual displays, material objects, ArcGIS maps and selections from the oral history project.”
Sunshine is using archival research to illuminate the links between Black resistance, capital punishment and anatomical dissection in association with the EMSW Project. In particular, he is working with colleagues at Harvard to repatriate the remains of Moses Johnson and Giles. Their bodies were stolen for classroom dissection by MCV professor Jeffries Wyman, who later displayed their remains at the Harvard Peabody Museum.
“Beyond the scholarly implications of this disturbing history,” Sunshine says, “I am working to ensure that these men receive a dignified burial at last.”
The Postdoctoral Services, in collaboration with the VCU Postdoctoral Association, established a grant program to encourage and provide VCU postdocs with the opportunity to pursue independent lines of research and scientific inquiry, which helps postdocs establish themselves as independent researchers. Congratulations to Goddard and Sunshine for earning this award for their enlightening and important research.